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Beaten to it

Looking for a first trout of the season on dry fly, an unseen fisher gets there first

First expedition out for trout on the river, and, although it was unseasonally high, I still kept an eye open for rising fish. However, little was hatching, and it seemed deep nymphs would dominate proceedings. I'd worked my way far upstream and realised I was at a little run that had brought me some success in the past, so I sat and watched a while.

There, tight into my own bank, I saw a reassuring sight – my first swirl at the surface of the season – a fish taking an emerging olive.

This is what I'd been waiting for. I quickly took off the Nymphs, unfurled a dry fly leader, attached a short length of tippet, and attached an Emerger. I'd have to get into the water in order to deliver the cast directly upstream, just inside the bank.

It drops away straight down here, three feet deep. The wind was blowing playfully downstream. I needed to be accurate, or I'd end up hooking my own bank.

A couple of casts and drifts, nothing. Hmm. Then I noticed another rise about five yards further upstream. Perhaps the fish had moved up? I covered the original rise with a few more casts before inching my way further upstream. Then it rose again, within range. It's always a great feeling, like seeing the try-line open up before you, and then stepping through the gap to score.

I fizzed the fly above the rise, shaking a little slack into the cast. The deer-hair Emerger landed, sat upright, and then danced down on the flow, bending out into the mainstream and then sweeping back into the bank. Just… About… There. The water welled up with sub-surface movement and I quietened my rusty arm to delay the strike. A yellow beak emerged, and a large black body bobbed to the surface. A bright, black eye turned and looked directly at me indignantly. I'm not sure who was most surprised: me or the cormorant. This bird had risen to the surface at the exact position of my fly, rather than the trout I'd expected. Where it had come from, I've no idea. From behind me? If so, it possibly swam straight past me.  And had he beaten me to the trout I'd been targeting?

Realising my proximity, it flapped and floundered out into the main flow and then across to the opposite side of the river. Had it eaten 'my' fish? It struggled to take off, certainly indicating it was carrying a weighty cargo. However, if not, then 'my' fish would have been scared off in any case. And good luck to it, as it was the only fish I saw rise that day, and to avoid being hunted by both a fisherman and a cormorant at exactly the same time means it can only be a survivor.

Meanwhile, I'd have to wait a little longer for my first fish on a dry fly for 2021.

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